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Duncan Selbie’s Friday message – 1 February 2019

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Dear everyone

The best way of ensuring a long life in good health is to have the best start in life, a decent education, a warm and loving home, and an income sufficient to meet our needs. Or to put it more simply – a job, home and a friend are the things that matter most to our health. The evidence on the importance of these wider determinants has existed for years and it is now widely acknowledged that health is about much more than healthcare alone, as important as that is. Employment is a vital part of this, and we know that good work improves health and being out of work undermines it. The latest edition of Health Matters focuses on health and work, looking at the importance of a healthy workforce, actions all employers can take, the role for local authorities and the NHS and the impact on the economy. There are downloadable infographics and a blog to accompany this.

NHS screening programmes are on the prevention front-line in saving lives so they need to be the best they can be and reach all those who might benefit. Today the National Audit Office has published their review of four of the eleven programmes, including breast and cervical cancers. The NAO have found unwarranted variation in service standards and patient access across the country and concluded there is scope for improvement in the management and oversight of both of these, requiring action from NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care and PHE. The screening programmes, and our screening colleagues in local services, are jewels in the NHS crown. Together with the NHS and Department, we will act to secure the future of these programmes for years to come.

Last week for the first time PHE and the Office for National Statistics published robust one year and five year net cancer survival estimates, by stage at diagnosis. This is a good news story with an increase in the chance of people surviving across several different cancers, though not for every cancer. Cancer data underpins all academic research and helps clinicians every day to communicate likely outcomes with their patients. The difference between diagnosis at stage 1 and 2 compared to stage 3 and 4 is early death, so the sooner we can identify cancer, the more years of life we can look forward to and this is why prevention and early diagnosis is at the heart of the NHS Long Term Plan. In a nutshell the focus on obesity, tobacco and alcohol as well as strengthened screening programmes, genomics and new technology will lead to more people surviving for longer.

And finally, this week we announced the projects that have been awarded funding from the HIV Innovation Fund, which supports volunteer organisations spearheading new approaches to HIV prevention. Innovative, community-led projects have a significant role to play in limiting the spread of HIV by addressing inequalities. Last year, the fund reached around 170,000 people living with HIV as well as the general public via online campaigns, outreach, testing, support and media and art projects.

With best wishes,


Friday messages from 2012-2018 are available on GOV.UK

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